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Our testing methods
As always, we did our best to deliver clean benchmarking results. Our test system was configured as follows:

Processor Core i7-5960X
Motherboard Asus X99 Deluxe
Chipset Intel X99
Memory size 16GB (4 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance LPX
DDR4 SDRAM at 3200 MT/s
Memory timings 16-18-18-36
Chipset drivers Intel Management Engine
Intel Rapid Storage Technology V
Audio Integrated X99/Realtek ALC1150
Realtek drivers
Hard drive Kingston HyperX 480GB SATA 6Gbps
Power supply Fractal Design Integra 750W
OS Windows 10 Pro


  Driver revision GPU base
core clock
GPU boost
AMD Radeon RX 480 Radeon Software 16.6.2 beta 1120 1266 2000 4096
Sapphire Radeon R9 380X Radeon Software 16.6.2 beta - 1050 1375 4096
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 960 4GB GeForce 368.39 1228 1329 1753 4096
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 GeForce 368.39 1076 1216 1750 4096
Gigabyte Windforce GTX 980 GeForce 368.39 1228 1329 1753 4096

Our thanks to Intel, Corsair, Asus, Kingston, and Fractal Design for helping us to outfit our test rigs, and also to AMD and the Nvidia board partners who sent us graphics cards for testing.

For our "Inside the Second" benchmarking techniques, we use the Fraps software utility to collect frame-time information for each frame rendered during our benchmark runs. We sometimes use a more advanced tool called FCAT to capture exactly when frames arrive at the display, but our testing has shown that it's not usually necessary to use this tool in order to generate good results for single-GPU setups. We filter our Fraps data using a three-frame moving average to account for the three-frame submission queue in Direct3D. If you see a frame-time spike in our results, it's likely a delay that would affect when a frame reaches the display.

Aside from the Radeon RX 480, our test card stable is made up of non-reference designs with boosted clock speeds and beefy coolers. Many readers have called us out on this practice in the past, so we want to be upfront about it here. We bench non-reference cards because we feel they provide the best real-world representation of performance for the graphics card in question. They're the type of cards we recommend in our System Guides, so we think they provide the most relatable performance numbers for our reader base. When you see "GTX 960" or "GTX 980" in our results, for example, be sure to remember that we're talking about custom cards, not reference designs.

Each title we benched was run using DirectX 11. We understand that DirectX 12 performance is a major point of interest for many gamers right now, but the number of titles out there with stable DirectX 12 implementations is quite small. We've had trouble getting Rise of the Tomb Raider to even launch in its DX12 mode, and other titles like Gears of War: Ultimate Edition still seem to suffer from audio and engine timing issues on the PC. DX12 also poses challenges for data collection that we're still working on. For a good gaming experience today, our money is still on DX11. That said, we probably need to revisit DX12 performance in the near future and see how the tables turn.